On February 6, 2020, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant-employer in a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Plaintiff, a manager of a federal government youth-wellness facility, under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Fox v. Adams and Associates, et al., 2020 IL App (1st) 182470 (February 6, 2020). The Plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident that caused injuries requiring prolonged leaves of absence. The trial court found: (1) that the Plaintiff was not a qualified individual with a disability; (2) that there was no genuine issue of material fact that she could not perform the essential functions of her job due to her disability; and (3) the employer terminated her employment due to her medical inability to work. On appeal, the Plaintiff argued that she was a qualified individual with a disability because her request for a multi-month leave of absence was not unreasonable, and that she did not request an indefinite amount of time for her leave of absence.
On December 30, 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, issued an opinion that discussed the circuit court's ruling that an employee confidentiality provision contained in an employment agreement was overly broad in scope and therefore unenforceable. Indeck Energy Services, Inc. v. DePodesta, et al., 2019 IL App (2d) 190043 (Dec. 30, 2019). The plaintiff-employer filed a lawsuit against former employees for breach of their employment contracts and for injunctive relief to enforce its confidentiality and noncompetition agreements. After a bench trial, the trial court directed a finding in the defendants' favor, finding, among other things, that the confidentiality agreement was void and unenforceable.
On December 3, 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, affirmed an order of summary judgment in favor of an employer-defendant in a lawsuit in which an unsuccessful job applicant alleged that her rights under the Illinois Employee Credit Privacy Act ("Act") were violated when she was not hired as a result of an investigation of her credit history. Rivera v. Commonwealth Edison Company, 2019 IL App (1st) 182676 (12/3/2019). The plaintiff claimed that the defendant's actions of investigating her credit history in connection with a conditional offer of employment and refusing to hire her because of the results of the investigation violated the Act.
Successor corporations may be liable for employment discrimination claims against their predecessor corporations under Illinois law. Department of Human Rights v. Oakridge Nursing & Rehab Center, 2019 IL App 170806 (First Dist. March 11, 2019). An employee filed a charge of age and disability discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act against her employer. After receiving notice of the charge, the employer transferred substantially all of its assets for no consideration to another related business entity. The employee obtained a money judgment against the employer, which it failed to satisfy. The State filed a complaint against the successor entity to enforce compliance with the judgment. The circuit granted granted summary judgment in favor of the successor entity. The State appealed. The Illinois Appellate Court, First District, reversed, holding, in a case of first impression, that Illinois courts shall recognize successor liability for violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act.
On August 19, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of the district court that granted an employer's motion to compel arbitration pursuant to an employee arbitration agreement that required arbitration of employment-related disputes. Gupta v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC, et al., No. 18-3584 (7th Cir. 8/19/2019). The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against his former employer for employment discrimination and retaliation. The company moved to compel arbitration. It argued that the employee agreed to arbitrate the employment claims after he did not opt out of the company's arbitration agreement. The plaintiff contended that during his employment, he never saw an arbitration offer or agreed to arbitrate employment-related disputes.
On August 7, 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, affirmed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant in a retaliation claim under the Illinois Human Rights Act ("IHRA"). Zoepfel-Thuline v. Black Hawk College, 2019 IL App (3d) 180524 (Third Dist. August 7, 2019). The plaintiff, a teacher, alleged that the defendant delayed offering her employment contracts in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment, then later terminated her employment in retaliation for the employment discrimination lawsuit that she filed against the defendant. In order to prevail on a retaliation claim under the IHRA, a plaintiff must establish that he or she engaged in protected activity under the IHRA. The IHRA provides two ways in which a person's civil rights may be violated through retaliation.
On July 26, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment on a Title VII sexual harassment hostile work environment claim. Hunt v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 18-3403 (7th Cir. 7/26/2019). The plaintiff filed a complaint in federal court alleging that a supervisor sexually harassed her by creating a hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII). A Title VII hostile work environment sexual harassment claim requires a plaintiff to show: (1) the work environment was objectively and subjectively offensive; (2) the harassment complained of was based on gender; (3) the conduct was either severe or pervasive; and (4) there is a basis for employer liability.
On June 26, 2019, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit in which the plaintiff alleged that her former employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by rescinding her long-standing work-from-home reasonable accommodation, and requiring her to relocate to another state to work face-to-face. Bilinsky v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 18-3107 (7th Circuit June 26, 2019). The plaintiff was employed by the defendant for more than two decades. After she contracted multiple sclerosis ("MS"), the defendant provided her with a work-from-home arrangement as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The accommodation permitted the plaintiff to perform her administrative job from her home in Chicago, even though her colleagues operated out of the company headquarters in Dallas. The defendant claimed that after a major corporate merger with another airline, it restructured its operations and informally "re-purposed" the plaintiff's department.
On May 17, 2019, the Illinois Appellate Court, Third District, held that a corporate employer may be liable under the Illinois Gender Violence Act ("IGVA") (740 ILCS 82/10 (West 2016)) arising from gender-related violence perpetrated by the employer's corporate employees (which would include 'physical' workplace sexual harassment). Gasic v. Marquette Management, Inc., 2019 IL App (3d) 170756 (3d Dist. May 17, 2019). The Gasic decision expands the liability of Illinois employers for gender-based workplace violence, workplace sexual assault, and physical sexual harassment committed by their employees. In this case, the plaintiff, an alleged victim of sexual violence, filed a complaint against the employer of the alleged perpetrator, alleging a statutory cause of action against the defendant employer under section 10 of the IGVA, based on the alleged acts of the employer's employee. The trial court dismissed the claim on the basis that the IGVA does not apply to corporate conduct. The following question was certified for appeal: "[C]an an entity be considered a 'person' committing acts 'personally' for purposes of liability under the Gender Violence Act?" The Illinois Appellate Court answered the question in the affirmative, and reversed the trial court's dismissal of the plaintiff's statutory claim under the IGVA.
On May 23, 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a plaintiff's complaint against an employer for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of an employee. Jane Doe, et al. v. Chad Coe, et al., 2019 IL 123521 (May 23, 2019). This case involved an alleged sexual assault by a youth pastor who was employed by the employer. The plaintiff alleged that the employer negligently and willfully and wantonly hired, supervised, and retained the employee. The plaintiff filed a complaint alleging five counts: (1) negligent supervision; (2) negligent retention; (3) willful and wanton failure to protect; (4) willful and wanton retention and failure to supervise; and (5) negligent hiring. Under Illinois negligence law, an employer may be liable for an employee's torts in one of two ways, depending on whether the employee was acting within the scope of his employment. If the employee was within the scope of his employment, the employer can be found liable for his actions under a theory of vicarious liability, or respondeat superior. If an employee acts outside of the scope of his employment, however, the plaintiff can bring a direct cause of action against the employer for the employer's misconduct. Negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent retention are all direct causes of action against the employer for the employer's misconduct in failing to reasonably hire, supervise, or retain the employee.